Picking the Jays (in the A.L. East)
Call me crazy but I am picking the Toronto Blue Jays to win the A.L. East this year. Seriously! I know what you might be thinking? And I’m not one of those people who pick his favorite/hometown team to win it every year. If I recall, I had the Jays finishing dead last behind Baltimore last season. If anything, I should be repeating that prediction based on Baltimore’s improvement and Baseball Prospectus slotting the Jays dead last in their preview. I disagree, and say that last year was just a sign of better things to come from the Jays.
Here is Why?
Nobody in the Jays rotation stands out at you, but believe me, they are all solid arms. I see Kyle Drabek proving to be the prospect everyone thought he’d be, working deep into games late in the season and winning ROY. When Brandon Morrow comes back from the DL he is going to tally up big strikeout numbers and win big games. Ricky Romero also has that ‘big game’ mentality. The Jays can expect another solid season out of him. These three are the pitchers that the Jays will rely on, also getting decent contributions from the back-end guys like Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch, Jo-Jo Reyes and possibly Zach Stewart later in the year. The bullpen looks formidible with three former closers (Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco). This could be, but won’t a concern in my opinion.
The key factor in the Jays winning this season is that the pitching gets better!! I can easily see this occuring under new manager, and pitching specialist, John Farrell. We all saw how the offense caught fire last year, and this year the pitching steps up to compliment it.
Also notable, is the Jays have adding some effective speed to get on base with Rajai Davis, a full season out of Travis Snider @Lunchboxhero45 maintaining a high .OBP and Yunel Escobar having a bounceback year at the plate while helping the pitchers in spades defensively. Along with that, the Jays look better defensively in the outfield with Corey Patterson being a late-inning defensive replacement.
Then, throwing more to the fire is Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hill and J.P. Arencibia all having productive years at the plate. Encarnacion and Arencibia emerge as a legitimate homerun threats this season, while Aaron Hill gets his batting average in the .320’s
All this is a formula for success. The Jays put together a full year and take a commanding lead on the A.L. East early. We sweep the Yankees in a home series in mid-September, giving the Jays what they need to lock up the A.L. East crown.
Importantly, I buy a t-shirt to commemorate the event. Yay!!!!!!!! ha ha.
Rest of the A.L. East
If you haven’t noticed this offseason, the A.L. East has changed drastically. The Red Sox, Rays, Orioles and even the Yankees have rearranged their clubs in ways that might alter the landscape of this division. On paper, you could say that the Red Sox and Orioles improved the most over the offseason, but every year we see good teams on paper disintegrate. The Red Sox are definitely familiar with that. So, that is what I am predicting for 2011.
The Orioles revamped their offense but are relying on too many unprovens in their rotation, and everybody can see it. Their weakness is glaring. The acquistion of guys like Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy shows that they are going to be a team that can flash the lumber, although without a solid nucleus behind them. Similar to the Jays last year, their offensive numbers will be significant, but their record will not be enough for the wild card. They’ll have a better season though, I’ll give them that as a fact.
The Red Sox got some premiere players (Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford), an improved bullpen (Bobby Jenks) and a promising rotation (a thinner, healthier John Lackey). They seem like the sexy pick to win the World Series right now, so they have that working against them. Expectations will be high and they will fail to meet them this season. Watch Papelbon gets yanked as closer, Scutaro and Saltamacchia not cut it defensively and their acquisitions take time to get aclimated to the change of scenery. Jose Bautista ends up owning the Green Monster in Fenway. So much so, they contemplate taking it down the following year. Okay, I’ve started to dream a bit.
Yankees *Wild Card Pick*
You could say the same old things about the Yankees. Tired responses like they have an aging roster, and they will fold under the pressure of playing in New York. But I won’t say them again, as I’ve been burned by these statements in the past. I have the Yankees winning the Wild Card for the second year in a row. Their back end rotation won’t have to be amazing to guide them through the year. If they aren’t good, I like the depth they have in the minors with guys like David Phelps, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman for the 2011 season. The Yanks bullpen also got a lot stronger with Rafeal Soriano. It is going to scare clubs to get into late innings with that team. They’ll take the Wild Card, but the Jays will be a handful for them all year.
Hard to see the Rays finishing the season low in the standings after winning the division last year, isn’t it? They will have a good club, no doubt. However, I know how important it is to have a good bullpen in the A.L. East, and they don’t have one for 2011. They still have a good season, but blow too many late leads on the road to the Yankees, Jays and Red Sox. Bautista walk-offs bombs will be their demise.
Baseball Does Not Revolve Around the A.L. East (I forgot)
There are actually other divisions, with some other good teams. Believe it or not?
Tigers win this division on the backs of Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Both these players have a long history of wraking the baseball. Prospect Jacob Turner makes an impact in the rotation as a mid-season call-up and the rotation survives as the offense is a juggernaut in 2011. The only PED Miguel Cabrera needs is scotch.
The Angels show MLB that defense in the outfield is as important as any aspect in the game. Balls are gobbled up all year by Bourjos, Hunter and Wells, and
the best rotation in the West quells the Rangers bats all year. The Angels win their matchups with the A’s starters on a consistant basis. They are a fast, well managed and better team at producing offense. The Angels are my ‘ultimate dark horse’ this year.
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, need I say anymore names? The Phillies rotation will get them loads of wins and Ryan Howard will wrake once again in 2011. Hard to pick against them, I dare anybody to do it. They are the class of this division.
Marlins *Wild Card Pick*
You’d think that the Braves would be the logical team to pick here. Many predict them to improve upon last season. They also scooped up Uggla from the Marlins. However, the N.L. East, apart from the Phillies, has been a very competitive division and the fish look on the verge of making some noise. The Marlins come into 2011 with a more experienced pitching staff, adding Vasquez and looking for prime years from Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson. The lineup features a very good young outfield on the brink of providing Hanley Ramirez with some needed protection. Marlins suprise everyone this season except me.
The Reds were so impressive last season that I’m riding them to the World Series this year. With a taste of the playoffs last year, I see a hungry team looking for more. No doubt, the Cardinals and Brewers will give them enough competition this year. But I believe that will only help fuel this team. They showed a tremendous consistancy as a team last year, and a great will and desire to win every game. The central is slowing becoming a very tough division, and Joey Votto is looking like a “big red machine” at the top of it. I see Cueto and Volquez solidifying themselves as frontline starters and Aroldis Chapman starting mid-season to boost the Reds even further.
It’s the Giants. Dominant pitching characterized this team last year, and the scary thing is that they are all young players that are getting better. They might have a shaky beginning this year, but the Giants will end it in first. Their pitching is that much better than any other team in their division. Big years from Madison Bumgartner and Buster Posey make them even better in 2011.
Angels vs. Reds
Winner: Angels in 7 games
Don’t anybody call me unoriginal! Dan Haren and Jared Weaver provide a great playoff stretch for the Angels and they win it just as the Giants won it last year; with pitching and defense (not including Scott Kazmir in that equation).
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na … BLUE JAYS!!!
The story of the 2010 season has been that the Blue Jays lead the majors in team homeruns with 179. Second place is not even close at 155.
Despite the ‘homerun happy’ numbers, the team sits 9 games out of a playoff spot. I’m tuning in same ‘bat’ time (sometimes varies), same ‘bat’ channel (usually on Roger Sportsnet) to see if we can make up that 9 games from here on out.
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I don’t consider myself a ‘stat guy.’ I was never a strong math student. But I do like
to analyze baseball stats from time to time. The world of baseball
statistics has ‘blown up’ in the past 10 years with sabermetrics. Don’t
ask me to demonstrate what these stats are? I just find them interesting to look at and analyze. Two of the more trendy stats out
today are VORP, and a UZR/150 score.
is concocted out of graphs, charts and ‘god knows what’ to get an overall
rating of how many runs a player saved, or lost, above any average
fielder. The moniker stands for ‘ULTIMATE zone rate per 150 games
defensive games.’ First of all, I love the name. It compares some of my favorite
defensive baseball players to my favorite wrestlers, ‘The Ultimate
Warrior.’ Follow the link above if you actually want to know
what it is about:
For all those not familiar with VORP,
it means (Value Over Replacement Player). VORP is a number generated
in terms of runs that are contributed offensively over a general replacement at
a certain position. For example, Derek Jeter had a 65.0 VORP
and Hanely Ramirez had 75.0 VORP in 2009. This means that Jeter
contributed 65.0 more runs to his team over a general replacement shortstop in
2009, and Hanley contributed 75.0 over a general replacement. Not that
big of a difference for Jeter when you consider the ‘fantasy phenomena’ that is
Marlins shortstop, Hanley Ramirez. Jeter’s offensive production in 2009
(VORP doesn’t account for a player’s defense) was among the game’s
elite. Jeter’s VORP was really a testement to the immense contribution
he had on the Yankees 2009 A.L. East pennet team last season.
For me, it helps to visualize these so called ‘replacement players’ for each
position in order to assess VORP.
In the case of shortstop, the last two years Tigers shortstop, Adam Everett,
has had a 0.3 VORP. Epitomizing the stagnate offense of the shortstop
replacement – respected only for his glove. Another guy would be John
McDonald from the Blue Jays – with a -2.3 VORP. McDonald is even a little
worse than the 0.0 mark of the average replacement at shortstop. He is
still replacement worthy, but that is not saying a whole lot as the 0.0 number
value is made to characterize any ordinary player that can fill the role.
Lets breakdown the Blue Jays 2009 season related their
VORP and judge each player’s offensive value based on their
- Fred Lewis, LF, Blue
Jays, $455,000 – 2009 VORP 6.7
acquired Fred Lewis this season taking a risk on a player that has
obvious athletic gifts. 2009 was a terrible season in San
Francisco for Lewis. He lost his job mid-season
and was sent to the minors. A 6.7 VORP in ’09 shows that Lewis very close
to replacement level in left field. The Blue Jays hope their hitting
coaches can help Lewis reach his full potential. At his current price, AA
should be commended because Lewis looks like a risk worth
- Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue
Jays, $4,000,000 – 2009 VORP 41.6
was a ‘career season’ for Aaron Hill that saw him make the All-Star game
and win a Silver Slugger. His VORP shows that 2009 put him well above
replacement level. He is emblematic of the modern slugging 2nd
baseman. Hill is a free swinger that is criticized for not getting on
base enough. He is our player with the most value in a stage of rebuilding,
so trading Hill has been thrown out there. Personally, I like Hill’s
swing and approach at the plate. It is overly-aggressive but I don’t see
any indications of that hindering his ability. At this point, I’d hold
onto Hill, as he fits right in with the current mold of offensive producing 2nd
- Adam Lind, DH, Blue
Jays, $550,000 – VORP 44.7
Lind also had a ‘career year’ in 2009. The Jays locked him into a
long-term contract for the foreseeable future before 2009 began. This was
an astute decision, in my opinion. Lind performed on the level of some of
the best #3 and #4’s hitters in the game last year. It was a good
decision to keep Lind in the Jays future. We are getting great value out
him on a 4-year 18 million dollar contract with options for even more
Wells, CF, Blue Jays, $15,687,000 – VORP 15.4
if having a VORP at 15.4 wasn’t bad enough, Vernon Wells posted a -15
UZR score ranking runs gained/or lost on defense. Defensively, Wells was
scored among the worst centerfielders in the league last season. When you
deduce the defensive scores from the VORP, you get a replacement level
player making seven figures. 2009 was a horror story. It got
down right ugly for Vernon Wells. At times, I couldn’t watch. It
would give me nightmares. However, 2010 is beautiful!!! Wells is
hitting at a very high level, and actually earning his contract!!! The
nightmares are gone. 15MIL is a huge commitment to any player. It
could be argued that no player deserves that amount. Wells streakiness,
injury prone seasons and age will definitely make him a contract that the Jays
will part with or trade at some point. Right now, Wells is looking much
more athletic in the field and very savvy at the plate. What a difference
a year makes?
Blue Jays, $7,950,000 – VORP 18.4
Overbay is hard to gage
because he is a player that saves runs on defense, having a UZR/150 score of
plus 6. His VORP is slightly above replacement level, but at a position
where the offensive output at the replacement level is the highest.
Overbay is a contributor, but the raw stats like AVG., doubles and RBI’s have
declined. Overbay will earn 8 million this season and the Jays will
likely look to Brett Wallace (a centerpiece in the Roy Halladay trade) to fill
1st base in the future. I wouldn’t be too patient with
Wallace. If the Jays get in contention in the next few seasons, I’d chase
after a guy with some proven production.
- Edwin Encarnacion, 3B,
Blue Jays, $5,175,000 – VORP 9.6
Encarnacion played his best year at the Great American Smallpark in Cincinnati.
He had a couple years with great offensive production, amid horrible defensive
skills. He was acquired with a number of prospects for Scott Rolen last
season. The Jays picked up Encarnacion’s hefty contract. A very low
VORP compounded by injuries and terrible defensive skills puts Encarnacion at
replacement level in the 2009 season. Nobody is expecting much from
Encarnacion, so there is room for him to prove himself with the
organization. If the Jays aren’t drafting, looking or thinking of
establishing 3rd base help now, they are not doing their job.
- Alex Gonzalez, SS, Blue
Jays, $2,750,000 – VORP 5.8
injury riddled 2009 season for Alex Gonzalez in Boston
was probably a legitimate gripe. Gonzalez has burst on the scene in
2010. He is proving himself much more than a replacement level SS,
hitting .277, with 7 HR’s and 19 RBI’s thus far. The Jays only saw
Gonzalez as a stopgap option, so they signed him to only one year. He may
for a larger, longer contract next season while the Jays wait on young top
Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechevarria to develop in the minors. I’d give
Gonzalez another 2 years if he keeps playing like this?
- John Buck, C, Blue Jays,
$2,000,000 – VORP 7.4
‘stopgap’ for the Jays was John Buck, although he is a player that is
not playing well above his head right now. The Jays signed him for one
year while they develop some catcher talent in the minors (i.e. J.P. Arrencibia
and Travis D’Arnaud). The depth of talent at the catcher position is not
that significant. I wouldn’t be worried about this position. Buck
provides some pop in his bat while playing near replacement level. I
don’t think we will get much more out of him. The best that the Jays
could do is draft, and try to develop their young catchers into a rare case of
Brian McCann or Joe Mauer. If this takes longer than expected? Buck
might get another one-year contract with the team?
- Travis Snider, RF, Blue
Jays, $405,800 – VORP 6.5
Snider is a case of a guy that crushes the minor leagues, but has not
nearly translated that into the majors. The near replacement level VORP
indicated a lack of playing time last season, and some relative struggles for
Snider. The Jays should be patient with Snider, as he is still very young
and could be an emerging star that we could get very good value out of.
It depends how well the Jays do, if Snider tests their patience level. I
might upgrade this position if the Jays turn into buyers at some point, and let
Snider take more time in the minors. Just being here at this age, 22,
Snider is well above the curve.
Bautista, Blue Jays, Utility
season Jose Bautista mainly played a utility role with the Jays.
This season he has moved around positions on a more permanant basis.
Edwin Encarnacion’s recent injury has Bautista currently filling in as the Jays
starting third baseman. Before the arrival of Fred Lewis, Bautista was
rotated around the corner outfield position. Regardless of where Bautista
ends up playing, he has proven to be a very useful acquisition – providing some
extra base pop in the order, hitting 6 HR’s with 20 RBI’s this early in the
season. Upon the return of Edwin Encarnacion, he may relegate both Edwin
and Fred Lewis to a utility role.
back on last season, the Jays only had 2 players here that produced significant
VORP. They need to raise the depth of production in different
ways to help a very young, inexperienced, but inexpensive pitching staff.
That is the only way we could compete with likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and
many guys have been stepping it up this year?
year has been very pleasing to those looking for improvement in the Blue Jay
lineup from last season. The Blue Jays lead the entire league in
homeruns! I would not have expected that. Alex Gonzalez, Vernon
Wells and Jose Bautista look on pace to have breakthrough seasons and increase
their VORP. If Snider, Overbay, Lewis and Buck can make solid
contributions to the lineup, then the overall output in VORP will be much, much
better than last season. Nobody expected this kind of the production from
the Jays so far, it has me giddy, happy and definably over-joyed! We are
VORPin it up, and slugging with the ‘big boys’ in the A.L. East.
The last time I posted my 2008 MLB Player Name poem (I guess?) entitled, “A Rough MLB Morning,” I got some positive reaction. People actually like this, I thought? So, I decided to do another one for 2010. Enjoy!
“The Price of a MLB Friendship”
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I awoke out of my Sheets
with a clean Billingsley of
health. The Kershaw pain of my Kochman
felt infinitely better! It was a bad Lindstorm of Ichiro, Raburn, Jurrjens and some mild Coghlan that you don’t even want to know about. Don’t worry, with the help of Dr. Oswalt I kicked the painful Kochman before it spread to my Boobie Abreu.
It was on this good O’Day
that I walked to the Church on top
of the Hill to sniff the DeRosa’s. There was an absolute Milledge of De La Rosas – although I picked out
one Lilly. Before entering the Teagarden I usually treat myself Bailey to two Lindor Borbons. Me, and my French friend Pierre, were Jonesing
for those Lindor’s.
They call Pierre‘s Butler, Figgins, he usually makes some
excellent Marmols, but Pierre was a Bastardo about sharing them with me. I told him to “Fukudome, I’ll Daisuke
my own Marmols. Maybe I’ll even make myself some Pie, or get some Freeses or something?” Pierre felt
bad about the argument for he had had a Harden
upbringing with good Morales. Noticable upset, he told me that there was no
need for that Fowler language. Weeks
went by and I didn’t hear Moore than a Bartlett from Pierre. I guess that Happens to be the Price
First Names “The Price of a MLB Friendship”
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I awoke out of my (Ben) Sheets
with a clean (Chad) Billingsley of
health. The (Clayton) Kershaw pain of my (Casey) Kochman
felt infinitely better. It was a bad (Matt) Lindstorm of Ichiro, (Ryan) Raburn, (Jair) Jurrjens and some mild (Chris) Coghlan that you don’t even want to know about. Don’t worry, with the help of Dr. (Roy) Oswalt I kicked the painful (Casey) Kochman before it spread to my Boobie Abreu.
It was on this good (Darren) O’Day
that I walked to the (Ryan) Church on top
of the (Aaron) Hill to sniff the (Mark) DeRosa’s. There was an absolute (Lastings) Milledge of (Jorge) De La Rosa‘s – although I picked out
one (Ted) Lilly. Before entering the (Taylor) Teagarden I usually treat myself (Andrew/Homer) Bailey to two (Adam) Lindor (Julio) Borbons. Me, and my French friend (Juan) Pierre, were (Chipper, Adams etc.) Jonesing
for those (Adam) Lindors.
They call (Juan) Pierre‘s (Billy) Butler, (Chone) Figgins, he usually makes some
excellent (Carlos) Marmols, but (Juan) Pierre was a (Antonio) Bastardo about sharing them with me. I told him to “(Kosuke) Fukudome, I’ll Daisuke
(Matsuzaka) my own (Carlos) Marmols. Maybe I’ll even make myself some (Felix) Pie, or get some (David) Freese‘s or something?” (Juan) Pierre felt
bad about the argument – for he had had a (Rich) Harden
upbringing with good (Kendry) Morales. Noticably upset, he told me that there was no
need for that (Dexter) Fowler language. (Rickie) Weeks
went by and I didn’t hear any (Adam) Moore than a (Jason) Bartlett from (Juan) Pierre. I guess that (J.A.) Happens to be the (David) Price
“A Rough MLB Morning”
One Carmona, two Carmona, three CarmonaYoukilus, Youkilus! I Doumit on the floor. No Mora! No Mora! Soon, I was Gagne all night. I woke up on Huston, Street in Rios de janernos. Hunter Byrds were circling my body. Ahh, Inge!!! How did I get that Saltalamacchia’d off only four Carmonas? What a Putz, I am! four.
First Names “A Rough MLB Morning”
I started my (Roy) Halladay by heading straight to the (Yunel) Escobar to get a (Fausto) Carmona. The (Gabe) Kapler was not a twist (Trevor) Hoffman. (Andre) Ethier I use my teeth, or the (Al) Leiter in my back pocket.
One (Fausto) Carmona, two (Fausto) Carmona, three (Fausto) Carmona four. (Kevin) Youkilus, (Kevin) Youkilus! I (Ryan) Doumit on the floor. No (Melvin) Mora! No (Melvin) Mora! Soon, I was (Eric) Gagne all night. I woke up on Huston, Street in (Alexis) Rios de janernos. (Torii) Hunter (Marlon/Paul) Byrds were circling my body. Ahh, (Brandon) Inge!!! How did I get that (Jarrod) Saltalamacchia’d off only four (Fausto) Carmonas? What a (J.J.) Putz, I am!
The Roy Halladay blockbuster trade to the Phillies a couple months ago has recently brought this blog, my screen name, my life and Toronto Blue Jays into an identity crisis!
For those of you that don’t watch ‘The Simpsons,’ there is an episode where a motivation speaker, Brad Goodman, is intrigued by Bart Simpson’s attitude towards life. Goodman gets the people of Springfield (the town where the Simpsons live) to chant in a motivational town hall meeting: “‘Be like the Boy’ ‘Be like the Boy’.” After that, Goodman gets just the ladies in the crowd to chant: “Be like the Boy”, “Be like the Boy.” Then Goodman asks the old people in the back of the crowd to do the same chant. Hilariously, the old people hard of hearing come up with: “We Like Roy, We Like Roy.”
Combined with Halladay being my favorite player, this was naturally one of the best screen names that I’ve ever thought of, in my opinion. I even tried to get that chant going at a couple of Blue Jay games, but it never caught on. This is the gift that I give to you City of Philadelphia! Make the ‘We Like Roy’ chant work!
I’ve come to realization that I will always be a HUGE Halladay fan, no matter where he goes! And to prove this fact, without completly destroying my identity as a life-long ‘die hard’ Blue Jay fan, I’ve taken a drastic step.
That is right! I got a Roy Halladay Phillies jersey, and I wear it proudly, not even being a Phillies fan. Call me a traitor all you like, but I still wear my Halladay Blue Jay jersey just as proudly. Having this jersey is a statement that I realize the economics/business of baseball, and I have accepted it. Halladay wanted to get paid, and go to a winner. As long as that doesn’t come at the Blue Jays expense, I accept it, and embrace it. From now on, I am a serious Phillies fan when Halladay is pitching. I will be skipping Jay games to see Halladay starts! That is a bold statement for me, but in figuring my ‘identity crisis,’ the loyalty I have towards Halladay partially trumped my loyalty towards the Jays. It had an impact, is all I am saying. My personal ‘Blue Jay world’ was devastated by some kind of natural disaster when the Halladay trade went through … to use a terribly timed metaphor.
The Jays Future Identity
In losing Halladay, the Jays have lost their one definable ‘star player’ that all MLB fans,
teams and media were aware of. We now look on to a much younger team
that has wide array of possibly emerging talent. It is hard to say who will be the ‘marquee’ Blue Jay moving forward. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind
would be the likely candidates, but we all know a ‘marquee’ player is
not given that moniker after only one ‘all-star caliber’ year. It
takes time and consistant success. Halladay gave the Jays many
‘all-star caliber’ years. So, who will step into Halladay’s old
shoes? Other than Lind and Hill, the Jays have some intriguing young
players that could be future All-Stars? However, I’m not comfortable
enough to definably predict any of them as that. Brett Wallace, Travis
Snider, Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Ricky
Romero, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow are the guys in the
organization that I could possibly see being future All-Stars. If any
two of these guys actually turn into an all-star, the Jays will have a
promising future. That said, nobody can replace ‘the Doc,’ but it will
be interesting to see what player(s) round out the Blue Jay ‘identity‘ for years to come.
In Closing: My Life
In closing, uncertain in life as I look for steady employment, figuring out my baseball allegiance had to be cleared up before appling to more jobs. I was lost. My life usually follows the condition of the Blue Jays franchise in some eerie way. You’d have to talk to me for examples.
Right now, the Jays and I are both searching for an identity. Hear is hoping that we both hope find our identity moving forward.
I will not bash J.P. Ricciardi for the eight year job he did in Toronto. The fact is we gave him two chances, through a pair of ‘3-4 year plans’ to make the Blue Jays a playoff team again. His failures speak for themself, and it is easy to point to a number of decisions he made that did not work out for the team. I won’t mock, gock, or make fun of those decisions, as it is so popular in ‘Blue Jay land’ to do … well not yet anyway.
To be perfectly honest, my opinion of J.P. Ricciardi is that he was a ‘mediocre GM,’ performance-wise that is. His cocky, egotistical, know-it-all stance with the media led him into many mistakes ‘running his mouth’ on certain issues. It is a well know fact, that if you can’t back up this attitude, you are going to fall … and fall hard! Year after year, the Jays would truly produce good baseball teams on the borderline of making the playoffs, yet the heat on J.P. swirled around him as if the Jays had finished dead last every year. Fans, the media, even people supporting other teams on this blog site ‘dished out’ the heat on J.P. Unfair? Maybe, but if J.P. were to ever claim that, and I that bet he has, he should take a long look in the mirror because the man definately brought it on himself.
At the start of his reign, J.P. was very open with media, took responsibility for his decidsions, and rarely shyed away from the truth. This openess inevitably led to some embarrassment, as it became clear that J.P. was just not a very good liar. General Managers in baseball have to make many very tough decidsions, and similar to politicians, they need to be able to avoid certain questions that might jeopardize them in a situation, or cause further embarrassment. There were instances where J.P. would be hiding something, and then tell the media flat out that he was hiding something from them!
Notable Failures With the Media (few listed here amoung many)
1. One of J.P.’s memorable quotes was: “It’s not a lie if we know the truth,” about infamous back injury story made up for B.J. Ryan when the left-hander was actually having elbow issues.
2. After enduring a season where the Jays endured poor offensive production, J.P. was asked if he would consider trading for Adam Dunn from the Cinncinnati Reds at the time. His response was overly amped with ego, basically telling a caller on a sports talk radio show that the caller knows nothing about Adam Dunn, and that Adam Dunn “doesn’t even like baseball.” To which Dunn replied the next day, “who is this goof?”
Oh well, I have started to bash J.P. a bit. Here are some of the successes that have set the current Jays up some relative hope, but in hindsight, can also be coupled with failure.
Notable Successes Amid Failures
1. Some very good draft picks. One of Ricciardi’s first pick-ups coming to the Jays was Aaron Hill. Amid some injuries and positioning questions Aaron Hill has quickly become one of the best second basemen in Major League Baseball. We would have liked to have him strong in 2007, and a key part of the team playing third base instead of Corey Koskie in 2005, but regarless of those questions around Hill – still a great pick.
2. Adam Lind was also a very good pick J.P. made in the draft, but similar to Hill, had troubled road to the middle of the Jays order. Lind was picked up in the third round of the 2004 draft, and quickly excelled in the minors. It took a couple of years of Lind contending annually for the batting championship in the AAA International League for the Jays to realize that ‘this kid could hit.’ Under Manager John Gibbons (J.P. Ricciardi’s man for the Manager position), Adam Lind wasn’t given much of a chance after some early struggles. The kid became so distraught with the Jays early evaluation of him, that Lind almost quit baseball altogether! With the efforts of newly acquired Manager, Cito Gaston, Lind salvage the 2008 season and ‘turned a corner’ with his bat. 2009 sees Adam Lind contending for the Silver Slugger Award as a DH, we as Jays fans wonder what HUGE, MONUMENTAL waste of talent it has been keeping this guy locked in the minors and doubting his career!!! Still, J.P. a good draft pick … lol Yes.
3. The Roy Halladay contract extension was a great business decidsion by J.P. He made a couple other extension that did not work out so well (i.e. Vernon Wells and Alex Rios) but Halladay’s paid off in spades. The Jays currently have Halladay set with the team for another year, and he is still arguably the best pitcher in baseball. With deeply inflated contracts to guys like C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana, J.P. extended Halladay to for what seems like a bargain compared to the two previously mentioned. Jays fans should feel lucky that they are able to enjoy Halladay for this, and another year. I commend J.P. for that move, but at the same time you can really fault him for tacking on the dollars, and the years, to Vernon Wells and Alex Rios.
J.P.’s Inevitable Big Failure
I’m of the opinion, shared by most analysts and people that follow the Jays, that the beginning of the end occurred for J.P. Ricciardi before the 2005 season where he drifted far from the ‘moneyball’ strategy that made him such a ‘hotshot‘ coming from Oakland to begin with. Before this season, one of the Jays top advisors (sorry as his name escapes me), a man highly adversed in sabermetrics, and well respected in baseball cirlces left the team. Coincidentally the Blue Jays expanded their payroll that year, and the money staying to fly as if we were trying to compete for free agents with the ‘big two‘ Yankees and Red Sox. Many talk about the ‘beginning of the end,’ when the Jays dished out a terrible three-year 17 million dollar contract to Corey Koskie losing some draft picks in the process. This aquisition baffled many? Yes, Koskie was Canadian, BIG ‘freakin’ DEAL, most in baseball knew he was nowhere near deserving of that money. The smart, ‘moneyball’ decision would have been to keep those picks, and move up and coming shortstop Aaron Hill to third base for his 2005 rookie season. Koskie hardly played a year for Jays before succumbing to injury.
Conclusion to this Mess
The point to remember with the Koskie signing is that it showed how far J.P. strayed from the his principles with the acquisition of more money, which in the Jays case, doesn’t always equal more value or production. Like any good business, you need seek ways to produce at high levels, with being as cost-effective as possible. Recklessly throwing money at problems works for some teams, but not most. After Koskie, the Jays risked buying a #2 starter, A.J. Burnett, that is still somewhat overvalued and in the long run ended up hurting club because of injury. We overpayed, and are still overpaying, for a supposedly ‘shut down’ c
loser with a bright future, in B.J. Ryan. One might wonder what the Jays might have become if we pursue this spots through other means?? Closers are often grown through the system, and 15-game winners can be made also without having to overspend on a player that comes with injury baggage.
J.P. Ricciardi came to Jays with a method, and it quickly turned into ‘money-flashing madness,’ that would make even the Yankees and Red Sox proud. If you are going to spend, you better make darn sure that you are getting that production in return. I wonder what J.P. thinks now when he sees Vernon Wells’ .311 On Base?
I’ve pretty much been going through this early Blue Jay winning streak with a skeptical attitude. I thought that our hitters could not keep up this torrid pace for much longer. Something happened now to change my mind. The Jays keep hitting! We just don’t stop! It is awesome!
Every night I’m watching a Blue Jay lineup that is similar to some of the Red Sox and Yankee teams of the past 10 years. That is, we have hitters 1 thru 9 that can give our pitchers a very good chance to win on any given day.
The ‘Cito Effect’ is indeed correct, (referring to an earlier preseason post of mine). Blue Jay hitters are dismantling the baseball right now. It is more surprising that we are being led by some players that we didn’t have for the majority of last year.
Aaron Hill is one best hitters in baseball right now coming back to the Jays after suffering a concusion that saw him sit out the majority of last season. To me, Hill is right there with Kinsler and Pedroia among American League second baseman. The man can flat out hit, and he is hitting everything right now, batting .339 with 10 homers and 32 RBI’s. Slowly Hill is asserting himself as the strongest hitter in the Blue Jay lineup.
Rod Barajas split time with Gregg Zaun last season. Totally outplaying Zaun last year, the Jays decided to sign him, and part with the aging fan favorite Zaun. Boy, are they are glad they did. Barajas is now proving to be a plus .300 hitter with gap power for the 2009 season. Rod has been a big surprise getting a lot of opposite field hits lately. I never saw him hit that way earlier in his career? Barajas’ success I attribute primarily to Gene Tenace and Cito Gaston. Rod was also born in Ontario, California, so it must have been divine fate that he would succeed here.
Last but certainly not least is Adam Lind. Lind was sent down early in the 2008 season because of a cold spell when he was called up to the majors. Lind was hitting everything in AAA in 2008. Whatever John Gibbons or the hitting coach was trying to do with Lind was not working. Cito Gaston promoted Adam Lind right away at the end of 2008. There was a big difference in Adam Lind’s approach at the plate. He has carried that over into 2009, gained some muscle and is now hitting the cover off the ball in 2009. Lind is hitting .324 with 6 homeruns and has driven in 32 RBI’s. Love those numbers!
So, here are three guys that we didn’t have the majority of last season. Three guys that are now making a huge difference for the 2009 Blue Jay team. I haven’t been able to compare those kind of numbers to a set of Blue Jay hitters in a while. Let me tell you, it feels very good. Can they keep it up? I am starting to believe they can.
The Jays have a three-game series upcoming in Fenway Park against the division rival Red Sox. If we win the Boston series, my hopes for this team will go through the roof and I’m gonna start talkin playoffs – even though it is still very early.
There is an unconfirmed report on ‘Yahoo Sports’ that the Jays are interested in signing Rafeal Furcal. Back problems cut down Furcal’s year last season. Although in the time he played, he did very well for the Dodgers in their late playoff push, hitting .350, with a .439 on-base and 5 homers in 143 at-bats.
The Blue Jay infield would look drastically different with Rafeal Furcal at short and Aaron Hill at second. Better defensively! Furcal is a dynamite shortstop with an absolute cannon
of an arm. This is not to take anything away from the crafty Prime Minister John MacDonald, Furcal has a fireball attached to his arm and range to boot.
We all saw how comfortable and effective Aaron Hill got at second base. We had some good production at second base last year (i.e. Joe Inglett). Hill, however, can wield a devastating bat if he is ‘locked in’.
In getting Furcal, the Jays could aquire something that they have never had before, or in a long time at least. This is a shortstop that can hit, and be a legitimate stolen base threat from the leadoff spot. We wanted that in David Eckstein last season but didn’t get it. It has been a long time since the Jays have had any stolen base threat, or legitimate lead-off hitter, for that matter. Although I must admit, Alex Rios was very impressive stealing bases last year.
Past Blue Jay shortstop list (I realize I’m probably leaving a lot guys out, I’m just concerned with the primary shortstops we’ve had): Manny Lee, Alex Gonzalez, Tony Batista, Russ Adams, Chris Gomez, Dick Scofield, Mike Bordick, Chris Woodward, Tony Fernandez, Alfredo Griffin (I don’t go back any further than him).
Okay, the latter two were pretty good in their day, but ever since Tony’s (??count them) 3rd arrival back to the Jays, we have had a lack of production from the shortstop position (Woodward had one good year, his defense was sub-par). Aquiring Furcal would be refreshing in this area; however, there will be a price, and there will be large expectations on him. Probably double that of what David Eckstein faced last season.
Looking at the Jays financial contraints, that by now have been well documented, we might only barely be able to afford Furcal. This doesn’t give us room to hunt down other free agents to fill team depth. Furcal might be all our ‘eggs in the basket.’ Just hope he is not another ‘bastaerd in a basket.’ Daniel Day Louis in There Will Be Blood
What teams are for real, and what teams are not? What players are for real, and what players are not? That will the subject of this entry. I don’t like making pre-season predictions because I really don’t watch teams in Spring Training, and how is Spring Training reflective of anything, anyway? I like to get a week in, before I can make any semi-good judgements.
We start the first week of the season with Mark Reynolds leading the league in homers and rbi’s. A great prospect last season, he came into 2008 a little under the radar. He did have a solid season last year and he was a pretty big part of the Diamondbacks NLCS run. Will this guy lead the league in homers/rbis all year? Definately not, but he is for real. A solid player and huge fantasy aqusition. If you have him? He will probably hit 35-40 homers this season and drive in 110 rbi. The Diamondbacks, now with Upton, Young, Reynolds, the ODOG (one of my favorites in Toronto, a little inconsistant at the plate however) and a great pitching staff featuring Webb, Haren and Owings (who will all have solid fantasy seasons) are definately my favorite to take the West and go to the World Series. The Rockies were a late season wonder last year and I don’t see them getting that hot again. With a staff and a lineup like that, the D-Backs will easily be able to fend off the Padres and the Dodgers, even with their bullpen (they may have to do something about that at the trade deadline).
The Diamondbacks are my favorite in the NL, but in that league, a lot can happen. The Rockies last season were definately evidence of that. I see a Diamondbacks versus the Mets/Phillies/Braves, whoever wins that battle in the 2008 NLCS.
The NL: Watch for big seasons from Mets pitching (i.e. Santana, Oliver Perez), Diamondback hitters (i.e. Reynolds, Upton, Young) NL Fantasy Sleepers: Yunel Escobar and Jorge Cantu could have unexpected solid numbers this season.
Unusal start in the AL. The Orioles, Athletics and Royals are in first place in their respected divisions. You might as well reverse Triple A with MLB, if these teams end up making it to playoffs, lol. None of them are for real, although one or two of them may be in the wild card hunt. Oakland will be there if they get a healthy Rich Harden back. Early injuries to Lackey and Escobar, in Anaheim, might propel them or Seattle to win the AL West.
I still like the Tigers in the central, although it will be a very close race between at least 3 teams in that division. The Tigers will be lead by Curtis Granderson having a huge run producing season. Look for the Tigers to really make a post All-Star break statement. The Tigers don’t, however, have the pitching to guide that far in the playoffs. Look for large ERAs, but high amount of wins out of all pitchers on that team. Other than them, look for the White Sox to try and prove themselves this season (they have solid veterns like Dye, Thome, Cabrera, Crede).
I see the AL east as being a close race all season between probably 4 teams. Towards the end of the season, Beckett, Daisuke and Wakefield will turn it on. There is no stopping the Red Sox in a playoff run. They are just too darn strong and deep!
My favorite, in the AL, is still the Red Sox. Down the stretch they will be tough, and in late innings, they will shut teams down with ease (very important!). I don’t think another team can ‘hold a candle’ to them in the AL. Look for unexpected big things from either Coco Crisp or Jacoby Ellsbury, and J.D. Drew. Nice surprises to an already potent set of All-Stars. Ellsbury will be good even though he has had a rough start batting .176. We all know what Crisp can be cabable of, so even if Ellsbury needs some more time in the minors the Red Sox will still be deep there.
The AL: Big year in strikeouts and ERA for Daisuke, he will compete for Cy Young. Beckett falls off a bit, but not much. Papelbon leads the league in saves and ERA for a closer. Another big year for Upton and Pena (won’t have a high average, however) from Tampa. Some very good pitching production from guys on Tampa (i.e. Sheilds and Jackson). AL Fantasy Sleepers: Shaun Marcum from the Jays will be solid (better than McGowan), same with Aaron Hill. Curtis Granderson, Jermaine Dye and Bobby Crosby will all have career years, this season. Crosby is a great player that has not really had the season that he is capable of, he will eke out a lot of hits this season. Jermaine Dye will replicate his 2006 season, this 2008 season.
World Series 2008: Red Sox versus Diamondbacks. 7 games. Diamondbacks win it all.